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Santa and the Finns

[ 112 ] December 13, 2013 |

Since the world is now obsessing over Santa’s whiteness, or really more specifically just how racist is Megyn Kelly, it’s worth noting that even if Santa is Scandinavian we can legimiately question his whiteness. After all, if it wasn’t for a totally bogus 1908 court decision, we wouldn’t consider the Finns white and thus whiteness would still be pure.

The Holy Mother

[ 5 ] December 12, 2013 |

The only known recording of Mother Jones for your Thursday night. This is from an interview on what she claimed was her 100th birthday in 1930. She did exaggerate her age somewhat and when she died that year, it is thought she was actually 93.

Today from the Defenders of Christmas

[ 171 ] December 12, 2013 |

Remember everyone, Santa and Jesus were both as white as any Mitt Romney campaign rally.

Cartels and Fuel

[ 29 ] December 12, 2013 |

Once again, the legalization of drugs in the United States is going to have only a minimal impact on organized crime in Mexico.

Millions of gallons of illegal petrol are flowing into Guatemala from Mexico each week, part of a highly lucrative regional trade that authorities are struggling to combat.

Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla said the trade is controlled by organized crime groups, which use the contraband fuel to turn profit and are thought to launder the money by building new gas stations, reported La Hora. He did not specify which groups were involved, but expressed doubt over earlier suggestions that Mexican criminal group the Zetas were responsible for much of the trade.

According to Bonilla, 65 “blind spots” have been identified along the more than 500 mile border between the two countries, through which contraband goods flow, with “eight or nine” of them thought to be used to move illegal fuel.

Of course, given that Mexico can’t even keep its radioactive material safe from theft, once questions the government’s ability and/or willingness to take something like on.

What actually would have a much greater impact is tightening gun laws in the United States, but forget about that ever happening.

Everything in the Oceans is Dying

[ 36 ] December 12, 2013 |

I assume anyone paying attention to what is happening to the ocean ecosystem also drinks heavily.

Comedy of the New Gilded Age

[ 11 ] December 11, 2013 |

Distressing that this joke actually resonates:

According to Kennedy, one of the most pressing concerns associated with rapid aristocratization is the drastic transformation of the metropolitan landscape in a way that fails to maximize livable space.

A three-block section of [Chicago neighborhood] Wicker Park that once accommodated eight families, two vintage clothing stores, a French cleaners, and a gourmet bakery has been completely razed to make way for a private livery stable and carriage house,” Kennedy said. “The space is now entirely unusable for affordable upper-income condominium housing. No one can live there except for the odd stable boy or footman who gets permission to sleep in the hayloft.”

Many of those affected by the ostentatious reshaping of their once purely upmarket neighborhoods said that they often wish for a return back to the privileged communities they helped to overdevelop just a few years ago. Among the first to feel the effects of the encroaching aristocracy have been local business owners like Fort Greene, Brooklyn resident Neil Getz.

“Around here, you used to be able to get a Fair-Trade latte and a chocolate-chip croissant for only eight bucks,” said Getz, who is planning to move back in with his parents after being forced out of the lease on his organic grocery store by a harpsichord purveyor. “Now it’s all tearooms and private salon gatherings catered with champagne and suckling pig. Who can afford that?”

The Real War on Christmas

[ 98 ] December 11, 2013 |

Forget O’Reilly’s fears of liberals saying “Happy Holidays” to each other. There was a real war on Christmas in this country and it was waged by those lovely people who settled in New England, the Puritans.

For the Puritans — in England and in the New England colonies — Christmas was a, well, un-Christian imposition on what should be a perfectly normal December 25th, thank you very much. Sure, the Sabbath was holy, Puritans believed, but there was no scriptural basis for celebrating or resting on Christmas Day. It wasn’t a real religious holiday.

Here’s why. Increase Mather, who was the Puritan Michael Jordan of hating Christmas, grumbled in 1687 :

The early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.

Pagan holidays are pretty fun, and Saturnalia was an absolute bonanza of revelry. So you can see why Western society was keen on keeping it around by aligning a celebration of the birth of Jesus with the existing winter feast. But not Increase.

Particularly upsetting to Increase Mather was the tradition of inversion associated with the holiday. Stephen Nissenbaum’s The Battle For Christmas goes into this in much more detail, but essentially, English Christmas at the time was all about class inversion, as was the pagan Saturnalia festival. Children served as bishops, servants as masters, that sort of thing. That inversion carried over into the exchange of goods (presents) from the rich to the poor, as a much more aggressive prototype of what we might recognize as charitable giving — think drunk, adult, trick-or-treating. And of course, there was feasting and drinking. It was fun, different from the everyday, and could get a little bit scary. In a way, Increase and his ilk were right: the rituals of Christmas had little to do in particular with Christianity.

Fun people.

The Final Evidence

[ 77 ] December 10, 2013 |

I guess conservatives were right. Obama is an islamofascistcommunistnazisocialistkenyanusurpertraitortoamerica.

The president shaking hands with the great evil dictator of a nation 90 miles to our south? What kind of horror is this? Who will protect the nation from the great threat Cuba offers to our democracy? What would Ronald Reagan do? Oh yeah, I guess he’d send an envoy to do this:

Totally different of course.

The right wing reactions to this are going to make for a popcorn-filled day on the intertubes.

Also, when I typed in “Obama Castro handshake” into Google Images for the first picture, the autocorrect came up as “Obama Castro similarities.” I don’t even want to know what kind of searches led to that insanity.

….The predicted idiocy has begun.

Wow, A Good Republican Position

[ 175 ] December 10, 2013 |

Bipartisanship lives. Or at least it should because this is one issue where some Republicans are right on:

Two Republican lawmakers in recent days have said they will fight to keep a ban on in-flight cellphone calls in place because they can’t stand to hear people yammer.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have said they will offer bills to keep the ban in place. For Shuster, the issue is noise.

“Let’s face it, airplane cabins are by nature noisy, crowded, and confined,” Shuster, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said Monday, according to The Hill newspaper. “For those few hours in the air with 150 other people, it’s just common sense that we all keep our personal lives to ourselves and stay off the phone.”

In a statement in late November, Alexander said he would introduce legislation to prevent what he envisions as a more turbulent future for air travel.

“Imagine two million passengers, hurtling through space, trapped in 17-inch-wide seats, yapping their innermost thoughts,” Alexander said. “The Transportation Security Administration would have to hire three times as many air marshals to deal with the fistfights.”

Can someone let me know how I can contribute to the reelection campaign of LAMAR!!!!!? Because I can’t express how strongly I feel about this issue.

ESPN Sucks

[ 94 ] December 10, 2013 |

Evidently, it is inappropriate to say the word “suck” on ESPN anymore. Which is too bad given how badly so much ESPN coverage, whether it’s the hours of showing people playing poker or employing Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith, sucks.

Per ESPN rules, I’d also like to apologize for this tweet, despite its accuracy:

My 2 favorite NFL teams are the Seahawks and the Cowboys in December.

In a related note, not only did I attend the Patriots-Browns game on Sunday, but I was in the end zone 8 rows up, right in front of the Patriots scoring drive. And that pass interference on the Browns was the worst call I’ve ever seen at a live sporting event. I was so close to the end zone, I could hear Tom Brady bark out the plays. I could have thrown a wad of paper at the spot where that PI was called. That was absolutely atrocious.

On the other hand, those were great seats to an amazing finish. Especially since that was the first NFL game I’ve ever attended.

Méliès Monday: The Haunted Castle

[ 7 ] December 9, 2013 |

Georges Méliès, The Haunted Castle, from 1896.

Manager Trifecta

[ 70 ] December 9, 2013 |

While I have no problem with Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, and Tony LaRussa getting elected to the Hall of Fame, evidently the standard for being a great manager is working for a high-revenue team over a very long time. What I’d like to see is some attempt to measure managers through a win/dollar statistic adjusted for baseball inflation over time. Maybe this exists in some form, I don’t know. Because it seems to me that being moderately successful for a long period of time with low budgets is equally as valuable as working for owners constantly willing to fork over $100 million plus budgets. This doesn’t even take into account the marginal effect managers seem to actually have on teams, not to mention the blaming of and cycling through of managers when you have incredibly incompetent GMs and ownership.

One person who comes to mind here is Tom Kelly, who won 2 titles with the Twins despite being hamstrung by significantly lower budgets and greater limitations than most teams. Yes, his career record is under .500. Bobby Cox would have a similar record with those teams.

….A related point. Roy Halladay is retiring today. David Cameron makes the case for him in the Hall. I completely agree.

…..Also, in case it isn’t clear, I actually would vote for any of the three managers for the Hall of Fame. I think they are all clear calls. But I also think Tom Kelly is basically just as deserving for what he did with no resources. And as someone mentioned in comments, Joe Maddon may have a very interesting case in 20 years.

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